“What up DoskCrew!” says a girl, smiling as she walks by. The three guys sitting across from me all wave and smile back. Maybe it’s the fact that all three were wearing their “I Survived Soulstice 2014″ t-shirts. Maybe it’s because less than 24 hours before, the three gave a performance onstage at the Bren that earned them first place in the bands category at UC Irvine’s 3rd Annual Soulstice talent show. Regardless of the reason, Anh Nguyen, Ryan Nguyen and Bryan Do, the trio otherwise known as DoskCrew, are getting the rock star treatment.
The band, all third-year biology majors, officially formed during the members’ freshman year at UCI, but their set at Soulstice was only the band’s third live performance. All three attended the same high school in Fountain Valley and had begun playing music together a few months prior to leaving for college.
“We didn’t really talk in high school until senior year,” Do explains. “I met Ryan through some mutual friends, and I went to his house and he had some instruments and we started jamming.”
“First it just started out with piano, that was the main instrument when he came over and we started jamming,” Ryan Nguyen remembers. “Then we sort of evolved to not just piano, but we started including percussion into it, like cajon, and also started rapping. I think Bryan was the main person who motivated me to rap.”
Anh Nguyen became involved because he was physics partners with Ryan Nguyen. During senior year he attended Ryan Nguyen’s birthday party, and when Ryan Nguyen and Do began singing, Anh Nguyen joined in. The next year, Ryan, who began taking classical piano lessons at four years old, and Do taught Anh how to play piano. All three played piano and sang at various points during DoskCrew’s performance at Soulstice.
A mashup of various different beats, songs and piano melodies and interspersed with a few rap segments written and delivered by Ryan Nguyen, DoskCrew’s performance was a well-constructed mashup of various genres of music, to which each band member brought their own musical influences and tastes. The song samples work from Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar, John Mayer, Maroon 5, Eminem, Beyonce and more, all laid over classical piano and a beat that evolved as the track progressed. They also included part of the song “#Selfie,” during which they actually took a selfie onstage.
The song that was performed at Soulstice was almost a completely different track than the one with which DoskCrew originally auditioned.
“I think it’s really hard to pick songs for a medley,” says Ryan Nguyen. “We’d have a few songs, then the next day be like ‘no, we don’t like it anymore, let’s switch another song in,’ we were super indecisive.”
“I think we finalized less than a week before the show,” Do recalls, laughing.
The band believes that the final product is something that not only anyone can enjoy due to its musical diversity, but is also an accurate reflection of the band’s own musical tastes. Each member has a specific taste in music, with Anh Nguyen enjoying acoustic soft rock like John Mayer and Jack Johnson, and Do listening to R&B artists like Usher, Adam Levine or anyone with a “soulful voice.” Ryan Nguyen prefers hip-hop and rap, and is probably the biggest Kanye West fan you will ever meet.
“Performing, just rapping out there, it feels great,” Ryan Nguyen said. “I really like the pressure of performing, that feeling you get… I get nervous too, but there’s this feeling that I can describe when I go up there and I perform, when everyone stands up and claps.”
Nguyen’s hip-hop influences were very noticeable during the performance. His solo raps were the only original lyrics in the song, and were cleverly penned, discussing everything from binge drinking to get a girl off of his mind to “Game of Thrones.”
“A lot of my raps have a main central theme that’s like, always pursue your dreams, always have passion for what you’re doing, being yourself,” Nguyen said. “I just advocate for people to not fit in, not conform, reach for the stars. That’s why my lyrics are super important to me, but I really wanted to project it to the audience and make them understand what I’m trying to say.”
One of the most curious aspects about DoskCrew is the band’s unusual name, and despite attempts at figuring out the name’s origins, it remains a mystery guarded by the members of the band.
“Dosk started as an inside joke,” Do said.
“We can’t reveal so much about it. If we reveal to the world what Dosk means, it’s not Dosk anymore,” Ryan Nguyen said. “I feel like Dosk… people can interpret it in many ways, you know? It’s kind of like a lifestyle as well as a word. We allow our audience to interpret it however they want. It’s like a universal meaning word.”
“It has a definitive meaning,” Anh Nguyen said.
Even off the record, DoskCrew would not reveal the truth behind what is and isn’t “Dosk.” Although it may take on many meanings for many people, Dosk does have one definitive meaning: first place.